by Alex Davydovich (MBGH)
Built relatively recently, the Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown Los Angeles, CA opened its doors on September 24th, 2003. It catches the eye not only with its sail-like exterior, but also with the beautiful and breezy interior. It’s no surprise as the hall was designed by the two very talented men – the architect Frank Gehry (MGBH) and a master acoustician Matsuhiso Toyota (MGBH). It seats 2,265 people and serves, among other purposes, as the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. The walls and ceiling of the hall are finished with Douglas-fir and Alaskan yellow cedar while the floor is finished with oak. The round auditorium features a sailing ship motif that the architect Frank Gehry likens to Noah’s Ark. Columbia Showcase & Cabinet Co. Inc., based in Sun Valley, CA, produced all of the ceiling panels, wall panels, and architectural woodwork for the main auditorium and lobbies. (1) The Hall’s reverberation time is approximately 2.2 seconds unoccupied and 2.0 seconds occupied. (3).
The Library of Congress/Ira Gershwin Gallery, housed inside Walt Disney Concert Hall, was designed by Hodgetts and Fung Design Associates and made possible by a generous gift from the Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trust for the Benefit of the Library of Congress. The gallery is situated on the second floor of Walt Disney Concert Hall and rotates its collection bi-annually. (3)
With the initial donation of $50 million made by the widow of Walt Disney, Lilian Disney, in 1987, the County of Los Angeles added $110 million and sold bonds in order to build the garage. The Disney family later added $34.5 million with another $25 million from the Walt Disney Company.
Disney Hall consists of the Main Performance Hall and two smaller performance spaces.
BP Hall is an intimate space with chairs, wood floors, walls, and ceilings that hosts pre-concert talks, musical performances, receptions, and private events for up to 500 guests.
The Walt Disney Concert Hall Founders Room features a signature Frank Gehry sculptured plaster ceiling which rises 50 feet to reveal a skylight. This 4,800-sq. ft. dining room includes custom lighting, millwork, private dining patio with travertine stone, and landscaping of the exterior patio area. The exclusive Founders room hosts pre- and post-concert parties for major donors.
A REDCAT Theater performance space holds avant-garde and experimental music, dance, theater, movies, and art.
Since its opening, such pianists as Lang Lang (MGBH), Pierre-Laurent Aimard (MGBH), Daniil Trifonov (MGBH), Armen Guzelimian (MGBH), Keith Jarrett (MGBH), Helene Grimaud (MGBH), Benjamin Grosvenor (MGBH), Garrick Ohlsson (MGBH), Alessio Bax (MGBH), Murray Perahia (MGBH), George Li (MGBH), Krystal Zimerman (MGBH), Scott, Dunn (MGBH), Alpin Hong (MGBH), Emanuel Ax (MGBH), Eduardo Delgado (MGBH), and Yundi (MGBH) graced the stage of the main hall with their performances.
In an interview with Deborah Borda (MGBH), Frank Gehry shares his experience of working on Disney Hall.
DB: It’s fair to say that the Walt Disney Concert Hall has changed the way how a concert hall should involve people. When I first saw the design, I was absolutely blown away hoping to be a part of it. When you worked on it, did you design the hall inside out of from the outside in?”
FG: Inside out. When people look at the buildings I designed, they assume I designed from the outside in. That I make a form and jam stuff in. And I think a lot of my colleagues do that, maybe. But I don’t.
DB: What’s the one thing that stands out in your memory the most about the opening concert?
FG: I can’t help to remember taking the bow with Esa-Pekka […Salonen, the Music Director of Los Angeles Philharmonic] and the confetti and all that stuff. I never experienced that before. Architects don’t do that very often.
DB: But you must have also had a special pride. We had designed those programs together. You were the artist. That’s why you were up on a stage. I don’t know if people know, but you are one of the most regular concert attenders I know. What do you think now looking back ten years later, is the most successful aspect of the hall? From your point of view.
FG: Well, I think the clarity of the sound has got to be number one. And the relationship between audience and performer is right up there. It’s subtle. So when the orchestra is full on, they feel a receptive audience, because the audience can hear them. They feel it. It’s like a theater. You feel how you are coming across. And when the orchestra hears that, it makes them play better, believe it or not. I think.
Inside the main concert hall we can see a beautifully designed 6,134-pipe organ, sometimes referred to as “French Fries.” Composer Terry Reily called it “Hurricane Mama.”
The organ was built by the German organ builder Caspar Glatter-Götz (MGBH) under the tonal direction and voicing of Manuel Rosales. It cost $ 3 million to build, which was a gift to the County of Los Angeles from Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. How many instruments have a building attached to them? The building not only didn’t exist, its design kept changing. “There were many hurdles that had to be overcome. And they were civic hurdles and architectural hurdles,” Deborah Borda (MGBH), the President and CEO of LA Philharmonics. “We studied all organs that we could find in history and did a thorough analysis of what they looked like,” said Frank Gehry. “And it seemed like there were a lot of variations possible.” Mr. Gehry went back and worth with Manuel Rosales on the shape of the tubes. “I was told to walk off this project. This would ruin my career. This was insane. The organ would be a complete disaster. Nobody would pay any attention to it. It took two and a half years to reach this design and well over forty different models.[…] The organ went through many hoops to please the artistic sense of Frank Gehry. I had to make sure that whatever he designs, works ultimately as a musical instrument,” shares Manuel Rosales in an interview. “Because in the room like this, you don’t put sculpture, it’s focusing on the music, so we thought there was a rationale for the organ to have some spunk,” shared Frank Gehry in his conversation with Deborah Borda.
The concert hall houses celebrity chef Joachim Splichal’s (MGBH) landmark fine dining restaurant Patina designed by Belzberg Architects. Open for dinner and late-night supper, French-born and trained executive chef Tony Esnault’s exquisite dishes are made from the best ingredients available from local and regional farmers, ranchers and fishermen. Chef Esnault also offers a special tasting menu at the private Chef’s Table for nine, which offers guests an unobstructed, behind-the-scenes view into kitchen dynamics.
Accommodating 240 seated guests, including a private dining room for up to thirty, Patina welcomes guests into a warm, inviting interior undulating with organic ceiling curves and ripples of carved walnut walls. Patina also features an impressive bar display where guests can unwind before dinner or enjoy a late-night cocktail on the patio. (4)
On the third level of the building, visitors will find the community garden that features outdoors performance space and beautiful Southern California landscaping. The community garden is open for public and can be a cozy refuse from the loud noises of the busy city life. In the middle of the garden is a beautifully carved fountain in the shape of a rose, subsequently named, “A Rose for Lily” in honor of the main donor for the Disney Hall – Lilian Disney.
A concert hall, an educational space, a park, an office, and a cultural landmark – all rolled into one. Walt Disney Hall represents the best of the city of Los Angeles and the performing arts, an LA’s Phil is proud to call it home. (5)
(1) http://www.woodworkingnetwork.com/articles/columbia_showcase__cabinet_co_inc_-_an_acoustical_journey_127691448.html#sthash.S9HM2Erb.dpbs – retrieved March 16th, 2017
(2) http://www.nagata.co.jp/e_sakuhin/factsheets/wdch.pdf – retrieved March 16th, 2017
(3) https://www.musiccenter.org/about/OUR-VENUES/Our-Theatres–Concert-Halls/ – retrieved March 16th, 2017
(4) http://www.laphil.com/visit/patina-walt-disney-concert-hall – retrieved March 16th, 2017
(5) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAEd1uDOZJE – timing 7:00 – retrieved March 16th, 2017